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Backside of free speech

Some people dream of sinking the winning shot in the Final Four. Others close their eyes and see themselves taking the brass ring on ''American Idol" or maybe winning the lottery.

Then there's Brenda, Brit Brit, and Ms. Cake, who have different aspirations altogether. They dream of becoming Ms. New Booty.

To that end, they -- like many other women -- have posted pictures of their backsides on a website, whose viewers are in the process of electing a winner. Quite the campaign.

The contest is the brainchild of a mediocre hip-hop artist from Atlanta named Bubba Sparxxx, promoting his new record, ''Ms. New Booty." The record is getting heavy airplay on local radio stations. Just the mention of it is enough to make the Rev. Jeffrey Brown nauseated.

''This booty thing -- oh, my God," he said. The record doesn't bother him nearly as much as the contest, and the willingness of its participants to be judged on the most superficial of qualities.

''We've got 16-year-olds pining to be Bubba's booty girl," he fumed. ''That's what we're teaching our girls now."

The contest rules say 16-year-olds aren't eligible. But except for the legalistic fine print, Brown couldn't be more correct. The prize for winning is -- what else? -- appearing in Bubba's next video.

There was a time, not long ago, when I thought people who complained about things like this were just stuffy. I thought they didn't understand. I thought popular music was all about rebellion and making adults crazy. I thought C. Delores Tucker, an anti-rap activist of a decade ago, was a bore.

A contest like this can change your mind. So can listening to Lisa Fager.

Fager, the founder of a watchdog group called Industry Ears, is a former record company executive who now crusades against misogyny in hip-hop. She has been talking to the Menino administration about this issue for the past few months, and was on a panel the mayor sponsored a few weeks ago. One of her topics was Sparxxx and his record/contest. There's nothing stuffy about her.

Her overriding issue is how the public airwaves push sex to children.

''What's really scary is that some of these girls are young and put their MySpace address" on the site, Fager said. ''We have young people looking at this stuff so freely when the largest segment of new HIV cases is black females between the ages of 15 to 24. I personally believe they become so desensitized to sex because they have this exposure."

There's no way to tell from the website whether anyone local is in the contest. But a radio industry website lists it as the 14th most played song on WJMN-FM, and until recently it was one of the most played songs on WILD-FM as well.

Fager has testified before Congress, urging the Federal Communications Commission to enforce regulations against airing indecent material before 10 p.m. That, she believes, is a first step in keeping this material away from children. The FCC has had no response. She is regularly accused of trying to curtail free speech, which she denies, heatedly.

''We're going to fight for the rights of Bubba Sparxxx and little kids showing their backsides?" she asked incredulously. ''We're fighting to corrupt our children."

Sparxxx and his label have responded to Fager's criticism with a statement that accuses her of ''overreacting."

''It's for the clubs," Sparxxx told the website ''It's for females to feel good about. It's for males to feel good about. There's nothing negative going on about it. I'm a little hurt that anyone could take offense to this song."

There, Bubba just wants everyone to feel good. He's just sharing love, selling a dream.

Everyone has to have a dream, I guess. But there's one thing I found chilling about the contest website. Almost none of the pictures had faces. They were pictures of women reduced, literally, to their rear ends.

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